There are two ways this can become a problem: the first is between you and another person, the second, it between two friends or family members- while you remain in the middle.
Understandably it can be difficult to stand strong on remaining neutral, especially when you have friends or family at odds with each other, but to take a side can be a huge mistake. Especially, if you don't know the whole story! Naturally there are times where taking a side is the same as taking a stand on what it right, but the example I'm using with this is in relationships and misunderstandings, not right and wrong situations.
In my life I desire to live in a way that honors God. And having been on both sides of this problem, I've learned a few tips that have helped me work on this area of my life.
1. Don't jump to conclusions
It's so easy to side with what you first hear and believe that that's the way it is. Or it's easy to believe you've been wronged and just assume that the other person is out to get you!
Whether someone jumps to a conclusion before knowing all the details or someone just believes one side of a story as truth without truly knowing what happened, it can be the start to a lost friendship and open a whole can of worms that quite truthfully can be avoided.
There have been people who came to me and complained about what another person did to them. Having been through enough situations like that to know that all I was hearing may not be a while truth- I listened and asked questions to try and get an idea of what was happening. I would occasionally nod my head in agreement that I didn't believe what had been done was right, but I kept from becoming too attached to the story to begin thinking wrongly about the other person.
Funny thing is that with situations like this eventually both parties bring their problem forward. So I wait and just observe the situation and pray.
When the other party come forward I do the same thing I did before: listen, ask questions, nod my head and pray. It's not always wise to jump in and say, "Well, so-and-so told me this is how it happened!"
More than likely they already know you've been approached or know something about the situation. So if it's appropriate the next step happens in one of two ways: You can help both parties seek a resolution (not always needful or necessary depending on the timing) or you can keep praying (which is always needful!).
2. Choose to see the best in others
Perhaps one of my biggest weak points is that I chose to believe the best in people...I suppose it could also be a weak spot too, but I truly want to believe that someone is just having a bad day, misunderstood, or is just plan naive about the situation.
I mean, why create everyone as a bad guy up front? It's not like we're any better than anyone else.
I've been in many situations where friends both talked about one another- they both firmly believed they were right in what they believed to be true.
But ultimately, what matters isn't who is right or wrong. What matters is how we act and what we do. Are you building someone up or tearing them down? Are you acting in a way that is pleasing and honoring to God?
3. Challenges with other people are purely based on each other's point of view
Our character, the way we act, talk and react is based on so many of the experiences we've faced in our personal lives.
When someone makes a statement about a situation or opinion, there is more going on in their brain than just the simple sentence they said.
For instance, if I say: "I don't like bananas."
You could scoff and say something like: "Why not? Bananas are sooooo good!"
But behind my statement is the perhaps the fact that I ate so many bananas that I made my self sick. But since I didn't tell you that you're assumption is that I'm being snobby or ridiculous. Obviously, I'm using a silly example, but I'm trying to make a point. This could happen with any type of circumstance or situation.
From my point of view bananas were not something I enjoy, from yours well you could make banana smoothies, banana cream pies, and eat bananas all day long and love it!
4. Don't condemn someone for having their own opinion.
Last I checked, even God himself gives us a free will to think, act and make choices in our lives. Don't go criticizing someone for making a choice that is different form yours.
Obviously you have an opinion- so why can't someone else have their own thoughts? If they make a different decision then don't just assume they are dumb. Listen to what they say, if it has no merits to you- don't just jump on them like they're an idiot.
There have been many moments where you were an idiot and someone gave you grace...so try to add a little grace in your life.
And don't automatically assume someone is looking for the worst in you! The only person who has permission to make you feel down, like an idiot, and bad about yourself...is you! You can choose to ignore it.
Often when someone does something to me that I'm not too thrilled with I make up my own story of why they did what they did. Yes, it may not be the truth, but it helps me to not take it so personally!
5. Don't take everything people say about you so personally (Didn't I just say that? Why yes, yes I did.)
What happens to you and your life is between you and God....not some third party person who feels they have a say. True, decisions we make affect others, but when you come to those kinds of decisions, look at all the angles and make the right choice. Not the best one for you, but the best one overall.
I'm not condoning selfishness. What I'm trying to get across is the biblical principles of:
Love your neighbor as yourself
Don't judge others
Take the beam from your own eye before removing the mote from another's
Give grace and mercy to others- it's what God does daily for you
6. ForgiveWhile there are those who believe that apologies aren't necessary, as they know it's not a true apology, forgiveness isn't about someone saying it to feel better about themselves. Some people will pick apart your act of seeking forgiveness. They will even tell you you're not truly sorry- which can open up a while new can of worms. But don't rise to the bait!
Forgiving isn't to make someone else feel better- nor should it just be to make you feel better about yourself- it should be to help you let go and move on. It should be the act that helps to keep bitterness from tainting your heart.
If you have a challenge accepting someone's apology then be honest with yourself. Go to the Lord and tell him how you're hurting and having trouble with forgiving the other person. Have I been there? Yes, way more times then I care to remember. Did I feel someone apologized but wasn't sincere? Um...let me think...YES! Once again way more times then I can remember.
But it's not my job to judge how sincere they are or aren't. My job to to forgive even when I don't feel it. Why? Because forgiveness is like love- it's not a feeling, it's a choice.
Even if you can't feel forgiveness in your heart- say it. Then seek God about letting it go. I know it's not easy. I've been hurt and my family has been hurt very badly by people outside of my family over and over again (a side effect of being in the ministry or maybe even just living life- lets' face it we're all pretty selfish when it comes down to them or us).
I've had to go to God on almost a minute by minute basis seeking help to forgive some one and let it go. But it's the right thing to do.
Lastly, and this is the hardest part of all, but I promise it gets easier after the first 50-100 times....Pray for those who have despitefully use you. Pray for those who've hurt and wounded you beyond what you feel you can overcome.
I will be honest, when God showed me that I should pray for some of the people who hurt me, and I started to pray for them...I felt like I was choking on their names. I almost couldn't say the names- unless it was to complain about what they had done- and in some cases I'm ashamed to say it was even years after the event had passed. But it still hurt! And then God said, "I want you to pray blessings over them."
I felt like sharp pointy things were invading my throat and preventing me from speaking. And at first I prayed very quietly- as if saying the name would bring some kind of cooties on me! But over time, it became easier and I found that I couldn't and didn't harbor the same hurt feelings.
Yes, the knowledge of what was done was still with me. But instead of hurting me I used it to push me forward to better and greater things so I could be used of God to my fullest potential!
Remember, Jesus loved us much that he came to die for us while we were yet sinners. With that in mind, I think we can try to forgive those who don't follow the advice: "Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes."
And for you- don't forget- "Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes." ;)
Till next time!